Monday, October 09, 2023

Opinion Roundup on the Israel-Hamas War

There is absolutely no excuse for the horrific war that Hamas has now started against Israel. 
Israel will defend itself, the Palestinians in Gaza are likely going to be slaughtered as a result. and it may well cause a wider war between the US and Iran. 
The leadership of the world is displaying Israel's flag on buildings everywhere:
Here is some of the perceptive commentary I am reading this weekend: 
Charlotte Clymer - Hamas Does Not Care About Palestinians. Please stop saying otherwise. 
... Hamas has decided to attack innocent Israeli civilians because they are self-serving terrorists who exploit others’ suffering as a vehicle for their unrelenting antisemitism. 
 Nothing is to be gained for innocent Palestinians from these cowardly actions by Hamas, and they know that. 
 This is about hatred of Jewish people and a denial of Israel’s right to exist and a rejection of their rumored, historic peace deal with Saudi Arabia, and it is an astonishing moral failure for anyone to suggest otherwise. 
 It is completely absurd on the part of some to take advantage of the sheer complexity of this horrific conflict to justify the intentional targeting of civilians. You can criticize the Israeli government and not be antisemitic. You can speak out against Netanyahu’s atrocious leadership without being anti-Israel. But you cannot justify the intentional murder of civilians with criticism of the Israeli government.
 There is no rationalizing this. There is no moral basis for it. There is no nuance to be found here, however much some might wish there were.
 ...They are intentionally using innocent civilians as shields while they carry out their senseless acts of violent bigotry against Jewish people. 
 Whatever happens next, it is clear that children and the elderly will suffer most, and it is obvious that Hamas is at peace with that. 
 They need to be defeated and dismantled for the sake of all innocents, and the world needs to unite against them with that objective in mind.
...This was a colossal Israeli intelligence failure. This should be the one fact that generates across-the-board consensus ... 
The Israeli blame game could be epic... 
 The biggest losers will be the Palestinians living in Gaza. [Israel opposition leader] Lapid also said, “The State of Israel is at war. It will not be an easy war and it will not be a short war.” There will be no opposition constraining the Israeli government from launch a counterattack in Gaza: the policy debate will be tantamount to the Onion’s classic post-9/11 debate of “We Must Retaliate With Blind Rage” vs. “We Must Retaliate With Measured, Focused Rage.” ... 
An awful lot of regional groups have an incentive for a wider war... With Israel eager for retaliation, it is way, way too easy to see how this conflict could spill over Israel’s borders into a wider regional conflagration.... 
 The U.S. priority is for the conflict not to widen any further. To be fair, Lapid also said this war “has strategic consequences the likes of which we have not seen for many, many years. There is a great risk that it will turn into a multi-front war.”... 
 Social media will likely make everything worse. 
 ... when it came to war, the focus [of the last 30 years] was overwhelmingly on things such as Insurgency/Counter-Insurgency, Air-power and special forces, Information/Hybrid War, etc. The study and discussion of large-scale conventional war seemed to decline dramatically in universities, for instance, and was relegated to military colleges and a small number of think-tanks. 
However, if much of the world was not interested in conventional war, conventional war (to steal a line that has been reputedly said Leon Trotsky) was always interested in us.... 
In the last few years, conventional war has returned with a vengeance...
One of the key elements in that, is to make people understand that the choice for conventional war is almost always catastrophic for the state that initiates the war. One of the most distressing things about the discussion of a Russian invasion of Ukraine before Feb 24, 2022 was the widespread idea that such a war could be conventionally won quickly (one analyst even said confidently that the war would conventionally be over in a day or so). 
Whatever happens, going forward, we need to study conventional war more closely....
 I’m no expert, but all I will say as someone who studies war is that the Hamas operation looks exceedingly well resourced and planned. This had to be many months in the preparation (if not years).
 It was also kept incredibly quiet—and caused arguably the greatest intelligence failure of the modern era (I cant think of a greater failure than Israeli intelligence has just experienced). Hamas should be the number 1 priority for Israeli intelligence, and they missed completely this major operation. 
I would also say that people talking about Israel reoccupying Gaza, as if that was militarily straightforward, are trivializing what could be a horrific task. Gaza has 2 million people, is a densely packed urban environment, and one assumes Hamas has serious weapons stockpiles. 
Any ground invasion is fraught with enormous peril for both the attacking forces and the civilian population. I can't think of a worse area for large scale fighting from both a military and humanitarian perspective. ..
David Frum:
The Atlantic's Arash Azizi - Is Israel at War With Iran? Tehran is exploiting a conflict left to fester for too long.
... More important than material support, Tehran offers Hamas membership in an anti-Israel club with forces arrayed across the region. The Axis of Resistance counts the membership of Houthis in Yemen, Hezbollah in Lebanon (right on Israel’s northern borders), and various Iraqi and Syrian militias. As others have pointed out, Tehran’s arming of these forces with its advanced missile technology has changed the face of warfare in the region. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the militia that now holds much of the economic and political power in Iran, coordinates all of these forces via its external operations wing, the Quds Force, whose footprint extends over the region and to places as far away as Paraguay and the Central African Republic. 
Does all of this mean that Iran had a direct hand in planning the October 7 attacks? A White House official has concluded that it’s “too early” to make such claims. But senior members of Hamas and Hezbollah have suggested that IRGC officials gave the green light for the assault at a meeting in Beirut last Monday. The operation, whatever its details, must have taken months of preparation, and Hamas would almost certainly not simply surprise Tehran with something on this scale. 
Some coordination seems the very minimum.
... Allying with Tehran, doing its bidding, and bringing terror upon innocent Israeli civilians will not bring Palestinians any positive outcomes. Seven million Jewish Israelis and the State of Israel are not going anywhere, and so long as Palestinians don’t seek a strategy predicated upon coexistence, they will find no path forward.
... As he was hurrying to the northern front on Saturday, a reserve senior officer of the Israel Defense Forces told Haaretz: “We were living in an imaginary reality for years.” He was talking about Israeli intelligence failures, but an equally imaginary reality is that Israelis can have normal lives so long as millions of Palestinians don’t. ...

Finally, at Daily Kos, Markos has an interesting take on why Hamas is acting so crazy. 
Its because they've lost their minds. 
 ...Hamas wants the destruction of Israel, yet fewer and fewer countries subscribe to that goal as time wears on. So yes, there is real rage. Much of that rage is against Israel, for plenty of real and not real reasons. 
 But this anger is deeper than that, this is about betrayal. And just like Putin has lashed out against Ukrainian civilians for supposedly turning their backs on their Russian ethnic cousins, Hamas is lashing out at Israeli civilians because of impotent rage. 
 In both cases, it doesn’t matter that the actions literally undermine their ultimate goals. Killing Ukrainian civilians isn’t going to win the war for Putin, and killing Israeli civilians isn’t going to win Hamas support for the eradication of the Israeli state. 
 But it feels good. So they’ll keep doing it, because in the end, that’s all they have left. 
That’s why Hamas gleefully record themselves parading around the stripped corpses of their terrorism victims, then happily record young kidnapped Israeli kids being abused. Will it win them new support? Quite the opposite. But it feels good goddamit, and at this point, it’s all they have left. 
 A savvy Israeli government would use this opportunity to rally that international consensus toward further isolating Hamas, loosening its hold on power in Gaza, and working toward an actual solution. But the right-wing Trumpian dictator wannabe Benjamin Netanyahu is certainly not one of those, and just like the United States post-9-11, he has the political and diplomatic space to further inflame the situation. 
Destroying these barbaric Hamas terrorists is well within bounds, but we know he won’t stop there. And Hamas did a great job of both murdering the very people who could’ve paved the way to a solution, while turning even more of Israel and the world against their people. 
 What a shit situation.


Purple library guy said...

So there are a few technicalities of international law that I'd like to mention in connection with this. Hamas did not start a war with Israel. The Gaza strip is not a country, it is a territory occupied by Israel in contravention of many UN resolutions. As such, it cannot start a war. Hamas's actions are also not technically terrorism. Since every member of Hamas is a person who lives in territory occupied by an aggressor country, they all have the right under international law to violently resist that occupation, exactly the way Ukrainians have the right to resist occupation by Russia.

It is bad that they have been doing terrible things to civilians. Hardly a surprise, though. Kick someone when they're down often enough, what do you expect them to do to you if they catch you down? When Israel does all that stuff, sniping kids and journalists and medics, torturing prisoners, torturing child prisoners, systematically half starving the whole Gaza strip, demolishing people's homes en masse, waiting until they rebuild, then demolishing them again, burning their (orchards, farms, schools, livelihoods of various sorts), slow motion ethnic cleansing . . . it's all treated as just sort of this background thing, and you can kind of wring your hands and say what a pity and wouldn't it be nice if the next election happens to create a government that does a bit less of that. But when the underdogs do it, they're savages and it invalidates their whole struggle. If I was going to have a double standard about atrocities, I'd want it to at least be for the victims, not the bullies.

Of course lately, people sort of pretend anything Israel does bad is just Netanyahu and his far-right allies, but that's some kind of aberration that doesn't reflect what Israel "really" is. Except, while we object to Netanyahu's far right allies because they want to be quasi-fascist towards their fellow Israeli Jews, messing with the rule of law, reducing rights for women and LGBTQ+, and imposing Orthodox religious ideas . . . Palestinians already have way fewer rights than anything Netanyahu's boys want to do to their fellow Jews. And there is no noticeable Israeli political group any more that advocates any course of action other than eventual annexation of all the occupied territories through continued expansion of settlement. So from the Palestinian perspective, it doesn't matter who gets elected--any remotely plausible Israeli government would be, when it comes to Palestinian rights, fascist, and none of them have any interest in treating Palestinians better out of sympathy if they behave impeccably.

So from a tactical perspective, stuff about how Hamas behaving badly is going to be bad for them because the Israelis will be mad at them and the international community will not be sympathetic is hokum. Israel will keep on victimizing Palestinians whether they behave badly or not, and international sympathy has been worth exactly zero to Palestinians. That leaves the only possible way of getting a better situation--demonstrating strength and dangerousness. Creating costs to continued occupation. Yes, in the short term Israel will bomb the hell out of Gaza. But they create a pretext to do that every few years anyway. They literally call it "mowing the lawn". If they have to pay for it, though, maybe they'll think twice about next time.

zoombats said...

It's laughable that Trudeau is making points talking about International Law and treatment of Israeli prisoners. He should learn to shut up once in a while.

Cap said...

PLG accurately describes the background that led to the current conflict. Yes, Hamas has targeted civilians, but never forget that Israel targets Palestinian civilians with impunity every day, killing, raping, beating, jailing and torturing them, while destroying their property and taking their land. The handwringing about Israeli civilian casualties in the North American press is pure hypocrisy. Our press and North Americans in general care about Israeli civilians, but not Arab ones. So reporting over here is heavily biased and typically characterizes Israel as justifiably responding to Palestinian acts rather than being a terrorist apartheid state itself. Colonizers gotta stick together, you know.

In general, I follow British and Aljazeera reporting on the Middle East as it tends to be somewhat more even-handed. Unfortunately, Robert Fisk, the Independent's Middle East correspondent, is now dead. Based in Lebanon, he was the best and most even-handed chronicler of conflict in the Middle East, and would have been my go-to source for accurate reporting. He used to shred the propaganda from both sides, by seeing the fighting for himself and talking to soldiers and civilians on the ground. The North American correspondents sit in their air-conditioned suites in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and report the latest press releases and b-roll from the IDF. Pay attention to whether you're reading first-hand observation, and how many Israeli sources are used compared to Palestinian ones. That's usually a good indication of an attempt at balance and accuracy.

Brian Dundas said...

This conflict has always been above my pay grade. I tend to see both sides as wrong, which is a cop out, I admit, but it's all I got. I appreciate the balance in these comments above, very much.

Cathie from Canada said...

PLG and Cap, I can understand your comments but in this case I disagree - this is more than just an uprising of the oppressed, it is Iran trying to destabilize a peace between Israel and Saudi Arabia, and with Bibi in power in Israel it will succeed. The Palestinians will be the ones who suffer and die because of what Hamas has done.

e.a.f. said...

PLG, you make some good points but your opening para. not so much. Technicalities: When you're shooting and killing another group, its war. We do have Gang Wars, Labour Wars, etc. You can call shooting, killing, kidnappingm, etc. whatever you want but its still war because they certainly aren't trying to establish some sort of peace and never have.

The treatment of civilians in the Gaza Strip by Isreal is not great. Its violated a number of human rights. On the other hand Hamas hasn't treated those they rule with any interest in their well being either. Hamas has been receiving hundreds of millions of dollars a year from Iran. It hasn't improved the living conditions in Gaza one bit. There has not been an election in about 20 years so the current President in Gaza has been enjoying the money for some time along with some of his good buds.

I'm sure Bibi is happy with the current situation. No one is talking aobut his changes in Legislation to control the Surpreme Court. I'm certain this contributed to the invasionm, like no one was watching the border, even members of the Israeli military were speaking out on the issue. As one solider said, that wasn't what he was in the military for. The constant protests detracted from the business at hand. the very fact that Hama was able to "walk" into Israel and "invade" a military base blows my mind.

It is to be hoped the military does not carry out Benni's wishes to carry out his threats regarding Gaza. There are two million people there and a lot of themn are babies, toddler, seniors who have no "money in the game".

One outcome of this war I hope is Benni is voted out of office. Sooner would be better than later. the small parties who keep him in office need to do some soul searching.

Thank you for providing all the additional information in this post.

Purple library guy said...

I appreciate the reasonable tone of the comments on this; I was, to be honest, anticipating a good deal more heat in any disagreements with me. I do have some rejoinders.

Cathie from Canada, I would have to agree that this is more than just an uprising of the oppressed. There are many complications and ramifications and influences. But it is certainly not less than just an uprising of the oppressed. No doubt Iran has some influence on Hamas, but that influence is certainly limited to shifting the specifics of how or when they do what they would do anyway. If they give Hamas weapons, and Hamas accepts those weapons and is grateful, it is because Hamas wants weapons; Hamas wants weapons because Palestinians are oppressed and they think weapons can help that situation. I mean, if Iran were to try to give me a bunch of weapons and suggest I rise up against someone, I wouldn't take them, let alone do anything with them, because I don't have motivation to do so. But there's no way Palestinians are going to refuse offered weapons. Bottom line, when Palestinians do not rise up against Israel, it is because they do not have the power to do so. If they have acquired that power, it was inevitable that they would use it at some point, no matter what outside state actors advised.

e.a.f. It is in some sense a war. But people talking about Hamas declaring war on Israel are generally doing so to give the impression of two relatively equal entities with similar formal powers; I mainly wanted to point out that that isn't the relationship.

And that impression can lead people to misinterpretation of other things . . . such as just who controls how bad conditions are in the Gaza strip. I've never before heard that Hamas is getting that much money from Iran, and I don't see how they could without all the money getting frozen or just taken. US financial measures against people they don't like may not often get the political results they want, but they're pretty effective in financial terms. But imagining they did, it wouldn't really matter. Hamas is not a national government, does not control key things a national government controls. Israel controls the border crossings and they don't let much in. You can smuggle a few arms into Gaza, but you can't smuggle a population's worth of food, or massive amounts of concrete to rebuild with, or in general all the needs of a working economy, all of which Israel blocks (they do normally let in food, but they calibrate the amounts to result in widespread malnutrition). Money isn't much use if you can't buy anything with it.

e.a.f. said...

Many of the Palestinian leaders have come out quite rich and have assets in europe in the form of real estate. The late leader of the PLO, had a nice portolio. Iran has supported Hamas for a long time because they do things Iran can't, well they could but there would be repercussions Iran doesn't want to deal with. Hezbullah is supported by Quatar. In our more modern era "revolutionaries" and groups such as Hamas can obtain a great deal of money either by individual supporters or governments who agree with their ideology but don't want to be too public about it. Its sort of like when the C.I.A. gave money to various groups to do their dirty work.

You don't have to be equal or a country to be at "war" with another group. ie. Gang wars in British Columbia fighting over market share in the drug dealing business. "War" covers a lot of situations and not just fighting between equals or countries.

Israel does control the border between Gaza and Israel but not the border between Gaza and Eygpt. The average income of a person living in Gaza is approx. $1,200 a year. Its much more in the West Bank. Hamas is comprised of a lot of little boys who want to be somebodies. They also have nothing much else to do because their leaders have never done anything to develop their territory.

Purple library guy said...

e.a.f. Correction: Egypt controls the border between Gaza and Egypt. And Egypt, for decades now, has deferred to Israel when it comes to what should be allowed in. I suppose Hamas has some control too--if they wanted to STOP someone or something from getting in, no doubt they could. But they can't ALLOW something in that the Egyptians won't let through, so for most practical purposes they have no control.

On the war thing you are completely missing my point, but it's not that important.